October 20, 2010
A Blood curdling account of the Seige of Lucknow in 1857 India
This is the personal diary of Julia Inglis, the wife of Brigadier John E. W. Inglis, who writes of the days of the Siege of the garrison of Lucknow, India during the mutiny and uprising of 1857. She waited 33 years before publishing such, throughout which is interspersed with official communications and parts of the officer's diaries of events unknown to her personally. It is a blood curdling account of the daily terrors of a small band of English soldiers and some loyal native troops holed up in small quarters facing daily withering fire and bombardment as well as tunnellng mine efforts to undermine and overthrow the English as well as the 500 women and children taking shelter there. "There but by the Grace of God" events happening daily where the man or woman next to you was shot, killed or maimed while you were left unharmed. Many died of infection, diseases like cholera and smallpox, and starvation. I think part of this diary was written or appended well after the events. There was primarily some dichotomy in events, such as rations being reduced to 4 ounces of meat a day and then talking about the enemy shells killing bullocks which the soldiers had to take out and bury. Why bury the oxen when they were starving? Initially the seige defense was commanded by non-military, Sir Henry Lawrence who soon died and command evolved to Inglis who was strictly military. The civilian population did not seem to be as well administered and in the diary it seems rationing was dependent upon status in that Mrs. Inglis talks about denying a woman some milk she needed for her own baby and yet she had milk goats from which she obtained milk for her children yet this poorer woman's child died of starvation. Mrs. Inglis talks about giving away to select people tins of food she had, which the others had no access. She talked about someone who died's possessions of food being auctioned off and what outrageous prices people paid for it. Perhaps it was the way of the British military that each officer supplied their own food that causes this disparity to be casually talked about. So while they may have shared the same physical hardships there was no common sharing of food. It was strange to read that she said she never felt hungry during the 150 some off days of the seige and yet talked about other people and children dying of starvation. Maybe that was understood by the people that read this in 1892 but certainly was not understood by me, 118 years later. She had her servants still with her that cooked her food and took care of the children, which was also strange to read about. Nevertheless the perils and events she suffered were real and incredibly indelible on one's mind.